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Latent Genetic Structure of Sleep Health & Psychopathology


July 2022

Project type

Journal article

Poor sleep is associated with many negative health outcomes, including multiple dimensions of psychopathology. In the past decade, sleep researchers have advocated for focusing on the concept of sleep health as a modifiable health behavior to mitigate or prevent these outcomes. Sleep health dimensions often include sleep efficiency, duration, satisfaction, regularity, timing, and daytime alertness. However, there is no consensus on how to best operationalize sleep health at the phenotypic and genetic levels. In some studies, specific sleep health domains were examined individually, while in others sleep health domains were examined together (e.g., with an aggregate sleep health score).

Here, we compare alternative sleep health factor models using Genomic Structural Equation Modeling on summary statistics from previously published Genome-Wide Association Studies of self-reported and actigraphic sleep measures with effective sample sizes up to 452,633.

Our best-fitting sleep health model had six correlated genetic factors: Circadian Preference, Efficiency, Alertness, Duration, Non-Insomnia, and Regularity. All sleep health factors were significantly correlated (|rGs|= .11-.51), except for the Circadian Preference factor with Duration and Non-Insomnia. Better sleep health was generally significantly associated with lower genetic liability for psychopathology (|rGs|=.05-.48), yet the six sleep health factors showed divergent patterns of associations with different psychopathology factors, especially when controlling for covariance among the sleep health factors.

These results provide evidence for genetic separability of sleep health constructs and their differentiation with respect to associations with mental health.

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